Dinner made easy! This One Pot Broccoli Parmesan Orzo is a quick, 20-minute weeknight dinner. You’ll love the bright pop of lemon, fresh broccoli florets, and little bite-sized orzo pasta coated in a silky parmesan sauce. To add even more texture, try toasted parmesan bread crumbs on top!
Something magical happens when you take a single skillet, add some aromatics (hellloooo, onion and garlic), little orzo pasta shapes, fresh broccoli, some lemon zest, vegetable broth, and parmesan cheese. Something really, really magical.
It turns into a creamy, bright pasta dish with just enough silky sauce and broccoli bites throughout. And can you guess what’s even more magical? Having only ONE PAN to wash when it’s all said and done. This means more time to head outside on that evening walk or snuggle up under a blanket with a Netflix binge. It really doesn’t matter what your after-dinner plans are, just know you’ll get to ’em just that much faster with this recipe.
It’s going to become your go-to for the nights when you’re running from one thing to the other, the nights when you want to order takeout SO BAD because you can’t imagine making anything for dinner, and the nights when you’re craving some pasta and veggies. There won’t be a time you won’t be turning to this recipe, so let’s get started!
One-Pot Orzo Ingredients
Not only is there the whole one-pan thing to love about this recipe, it’s also made with simple pantry ingredients that I’m willing to bet you already have on hand.
- Garlic and Yellow Onion – my divine duo working together to create a flavorful base for the sauce, pair it with my other favorite flavor boosters (especially in pasta) – red pepper flakes and salt. P.S. you could also use shallots in place of the yellow onion, they’re a little milder and a touch sweeter.
- Butter! It would be very off-brand to make a pasta recipe that didn’t include butter. It adds a silky richness to the sauce.
- Lemon – using both lemon zest and juice (because why would you not take advantage of the entire fruit?!), they add a brightness to the pasta making it feel super springy. It also adds some acid and pairs beautifully with the broccoli.
- Parmesan Cheese – use grated parmesan cheese for this recipe so it incorporates best into the sauce. No grated parm? Use finely shredded parmesan cheese.
- White Wine – we start the sauce by deglazing the pan with wine for the ultimate flavor experience. If you don’t have, or don’t want to use wine, simply replace this step with vegetable broth.
- Broccoli – using good ol’ standard broccoli florets in this recipe. You can also sub in frozen broccoli, too!
- Orzo Pasta – What even is orzo? Orzo is simply a shape of pasta. It is small and thin, kind of resembling long grain rice. This small pasta shape is often used in soups. I like using it in pasta salads, too. It’s a fun way to mix up your traditional pasta recipes.
- Vegetable Stock – I love using stocks or broths in one-pot pasta recipes because it adds more FLAVOR. Of course, if you don’t have any vegetable stock you can use water. You can also substitute with chicken stock, however, that will mean this recipe is no longer vegetarian.
How Easy is this Orzo Pasta Recipe?
I said easy, and I mean easy. I am really not even sure how a one pot pasta recipe could be anything BUT easy, but I suppose that’s an investigation for another time, because we’re here to make this broccoli parmesan version, so let’s do it already!
Start by melting the butter in the pan, which is going to be the base for cooking the onion and garlic. Don’t forget to start layering in the flavor as they simmer, adding in a pinch of salt and red pepper flakes. And the lemon zest. You can also go ahead and grind in some freshly ground black pepper here, too.
Then, deglaze the pan with white wine. This is just a fancy way of saying pour the wine in and scrape up any browned on bits of onion that may be in the pan because they add a ton of FLAVOR. Let the wine reduce down slightly, which, you guessed it, is going to add another layer of flavor to the sauce.
Add the vegetable stock and bring it to a boil, then add in the orzo pasta. You could add them both at the same time, but I’ve found making sure the stock is boiling first yields much more consistent cook times. Be sure to read the package directions, as cook times between brands of pasta will vary. With about 6 minutes left in the cooking time of the orzo, add the broccoli florets and allow them to cook in with the pasta.
Once the orzo is al dente and the broccoli florets are tender, remove from heat and stir in the parmesan and squeeze half of the fresh lemon into the pasta. Stir until it’s all incorporated and ready to serve! But wait, about that, we’re not quite done, because I have one little addition that takes this pasta dinner over the top in texture and flavor.
While you don’t HAVE to serve it with parmesan breadcrumbs, I kind of think you’d be crazy not to. Kidding. Kind of. Because the addition of these crisp, toasty parmesan breadcrumbs adds flavor and texture to the pasta that’s unmatched. Kind of like breadcrumbs on mac and cheese. But better.
Before I hear a lot of ‘now it’s not a one pan recipe though!’ and angry backlash, let me clear it up. Yes, you could make these in a separate pan if you wanted. OR… or you can make the parmesan breadcrumbs in the same skillet you’ll make the pasta in, before you make the pasta.
This is the best way because you’ll toast up the breadcrumbs in some butter, then you want them to cool slightly before stirring in the parmesan cheese, otherwise, you can end up with a gloopy mess.
So while the toasted breadcrumbs cool off slightly in a bowl, you can continue on making the pasta in the skillet, just be sure to wipe out any remaining crumbs before you start the pasta process.
Then, once the breadcrumbs have cooled slightly, you can stir in the grated parmesan before serving and voila! Pasta with crispy parmesan breadcrumbs. Game. Changer.
What should I serve with this pasta?
My go-to is a glass of chilled white wine.
But if you’re looking for a little something else to serve with this orzo pasta, you’ve got several delicious options. I would recommend something lighter, and vegetable-heavy to balance it out (although sometimes you just need the carbs and I GET THAT). Here are a few suggestions:
- Whole Roasted Cauliflower
- Spring Vegetable Salad
- Simple Dijon Salad (I would leave the egg off if serving this as a side)
- If you have meat-eaters, add in some sliced chicken or serve with crispy parmesan breaded chicken. You can use the breading base from this fish recipe – or hey, make some Rosemary Parmesan Crusted Fish to pair with it!
- Grilled shrimp would be delicious alongside this pasta if you enjoy seafood.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can easily wilt in spinach at the end of the cook time. You can also add in frozen peas or corn.
You sure can, just note that it will no longer be vegetarian if you do so (unless of course you’re adding in some crispy tofu). If you’re a meat-eater, crispy chicken or grilled shrimp would be an excellent pairing.
One-Pot Parmesan Orzo with Broccoli
- 5 TBSP unsalted butter divided
- 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese divided
- 1/2 cup yellow onion or shallot diced
- 5-6 garlic cloves minced
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt or to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 1/2 tsp lemon zest
- 4 cups vegetable broth or stock
- 12 oz. orzo pasta
- 4 cups broccoli florets heaping cups
- 1/2 lemon juiced
- Keep this recipe one pan by making the parmesan breadcrumbs first, otherwise you can toast them in a small skillet while the pasta cooks.
- Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the skillet over medium-low heat. Add in the panko breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt, stirring to completely coat with the melted butter. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occassionally, making sure the crumbs are getting toasted brown. Once toasted, remove from the pan and set aside.
- Once the breadcrumbs have cooled, stir in 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese until fully incorporated. You'll top the finished pasta with this.
- If you made the breadcrumbs in the same skillet you'll use for the pasta, take a paper towel and remove any breadcrumb residue (butter is OK, you just don't want crumbs).
- In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat over medium heat, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Add in the diced onion and a pinch of salt, cooking for 2-3 minutes until tender. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add the wine to the skillet, scraping any bits to deglaze the pan as needed. Let it simmer and reduce down for 1 minute. Add the vegetable broth and lemon zest, bringing it to a boil.
- Once boiling, add the orzo to the skillet and cook al dente, according to the package directions.
- With 5-6 minutes remaining in the cooking time of the pasta, add the broccoli to the skillet. Once the orzo is al dente and the broccoli is tender, remove the skillet from heat. Stir in the grated parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice. Stir to combine, and be sure to taste for salt levels, adding more as needed.
- Plate and serve with the toasted parmesan bread crumbs as desired. Enjoy!